Smartphone Hardening non-root Guide 2.0 (for normal people)
NOTE (June) 15/06/2020
: r_privacy moderator trai_dep revengefully
deleted my highly gilded 1.0 guide post
before. UPDATED 16/8/2020
: Major edit, replaced closed source App Ops and Shizuku with AppOpsX (Free Open source) on F-Droid.
This guide is nearly FOSS supported now. UPDATED 17/9/2020: MAJOR EDIT, replaced closed source Access Dots with Privacy Indicator (FOSS) on Izzy's F-Droid repo. This guide is completely FOSS.
Hello! I am the founder of /privatelife
. Finally my smartphone non root guide is back, and there are some big upgrades. I was taking time to test everything myself on my daily driver, so apologies for keeping everyone in the wait, but stability and ease of use is the important goal to strive in my playbook. Privacy must be accessible to maximum amount of people without being annoying or tedious. A kind request to share this guide to any privacy seeker.
User and device requirement
- ANY Android 9+ device
- knowledge of how to copy-paste commands in Linux or Mac Terminal/MS-DOS Command Prompt (for ADB, it is very simple, trust me)
Why not Apple devices?
iPhone does not allow you to have privacy
due to its blackbox nature, and is simply a false marketing assurance by Apple to you. Recently, an unpatchable hardware flaw was discovered
in Apple's T1 and T2 "security" chips, rendering Apple devices critically vulnerable.
17/9/2020: Apple gave the FBI access to the iCloud account of a protester accused of setting police cars on fire
Also, they recently dropped plan for encrypting iCloud backups after FBI complained
. They also collect and sell data quite a lot
. Siri still records conversations 9 months after Apple promised not
to do it. Apple Mail app is vulnerable, yet Apple stays in denial
Also, Apple sells certificates to third-party developers that allow them to track users
, The San Ferdandino shooter publicity stunt was completely fraudulent
, and Louis Rossmann dismantled Apple's PR stunt "repair program"
Also, Android's open source nature is starting to pay off in the long run. Apple 0-day exploits are far cheaper
to do than Android.
LET'S GO!!! ALL users must follow these steps before "for nerdy users" section.
Firstly, if your device is filled to the brim or used for long time, I recommend backing up your data and factory resetting for clean slate start.
NOTE: Samsung users will lose Samsung Pay, as Samsung has been caught and declares they sell this data: https://www.sammobile.com/news/samsung-pay-new-privacy-policy-your-data-sold/
NOTE: NetGuard with Energized Ultimate HOSTS file with any one of the above mentioned DNS providers is the ultimate solution.
- Make DIY camera covers, for front camera notch use a tiny appropriate-sized thin opaque plastic cutout and use an invisible tape to stick it in place, replace every month (cost: tape roll and one minute of your time per month). My rear camera cover
- Install F-Droid app store from here
- Install NetGuard app firewall (see NOTE) from F-Droid and set it up with [privacy based DNS like Uncensored DNS or Tenta DNS or AdGuard DNS]
NOTE: Set DNS provider address in Settings -> Advanced settings VPN IPv4, IPv6 and DNS
- In F-Droid store, open Repositories via the 3 dot menu on top right and add the following links below:
Go back to F-Droid store home screen, and hit the update button beside the 3 dot menu.
LIST OF APPS TO GET
NOTE: Qwant Maps has better search results than OSMAnd+
- Get Firefox Beta web browser from F-Droid (install uBlock Origin addon inside (if technically advanced, try doing this)). Also get Firefox Klar if you like a separate incognito browser.
- Get Aurora Store from F-Droid for apps from Play Store without actually using Play Store, use Anonymous option to sign in
- for 3rd party APKs source them only from APKMirror OR APKPure OR APKMonk, quite trusted, BUT TRY AND AVOID IT IF POSSIBLE
- Get Privacy Indicator from F-Droid for iOS 14 like camera/mic dot indicator feature
- Get OSMAnd+ from F-Droid or Qwant Maps inside web browser for maps and/or print physical maps if you live and travel in one or two states or districts.
NOTE: for phone-computer sync or sharing, can TRY KDE Connect, available for Android, Windows, Linux
- Get PilferShush Jammer from F-Droid to block microphone (use this in malls, restaurants or such public places if you can to prevent beacon tracking)
- Get OpenBoard (user friendly) OR AnySoftKeyboard (nerd friendly) from F-Droid instead of Google GBoard, Microsoft SwiftKey et al, they are closed source keylogger USA spyware
- Get FTP Server (Free) from F-Droid and FileZilla on computer for computer-to-phone internet less file sharing
- Get TrebleShot instead of SHAREIt for phone to phone file sharing
- Get K-9 Mail or FairEmail as e-mail client
- Get NewPipe for YouTube watching, or YouTube in Firefox Preview/Klar
- Get QKSMS from F-Droid as SMS client app
- Get Shelter from F-Droid to sandbox potential apps that you must use (eg WhatsApp or Discord or Signal)
- Get SuperFreezZ from F-Droid to freeze any apps from running in background
- Get Librera Pro from F-Droid for PDF reader
- Get ImgurViewer from F-Droid for opening reddit/imguother image links without invasive tracking
- Get InstaGrabber from F-Droid for opening Instagram profiles or pictures without invasive tracking (seems like a revived fork is here, thanks u/sad_plan )
- Get GreenTooth from F-Droid to set Bluetooth to disable after you have used it
- Get Material Files or Simple File Manager from F-Droid for file manager app
- Get ImagePipe from F-Droid if you share lot of pictures, and want to clear EXIF metadata snooping (often photos contain phone model, location, time, date)
- Get Note Crypt Pro from F-Droid for encrypted note taking app
- Get Vinyl Music Player from F-Droid for music player
- Get VLC from F-Droid for video player
CRITICAL FOR CLIPBOARD, LOCATION AND OTHER APP FUNCTION BLOCKING I would say this is one of the critical improvements in my guide, and will solve the problem of clipboard and coarse location snooping among other things.
AppOpsX is a free, open source app that allows to manage granular app permissions not visible normally, with the help of ADB authorisation without root. This app can finely control what granular information apps can access on your phone, which is not shown in app permissions regularly accessible to us.
Now that you would have set up your phone with installing apps, now is a good time to perform this procedure.
Step 1: Install AppOpsX from F-Droid. (https://f-droid.org/en/packages/com.zzzmode.appopsx/)
Step 2: Plug phone to computer, and enable USB debugging in Settings Developer Options (you probably already did this in the starting of the guide)
Step 3: Keep phone plugged into computer until the end of this procedure! Open AppOpsX app.
Step 4: On computer, type commands in order:
adb tcpip 5555
adb shell sh /sdcard/Android/data/com.zzzmode.appopsx/opsx.sh &
Step 5: Now open "AppOpsX" app, and:
NOTE: Most apps that have text field to copy/paste text require this permission.
- disable "read clipboard" for apps except your messengers, notepad, office suite, virtual keyboard, clipboard monitor apps et al.
Step 6: Profit! Now you can plug off phone from computer.
- disable "modify clipboard" for every app except for your virtual keyboard or office suite app or clipboard monitostack special apps.
- disable "GPS", "precise location", "approximate location" and "coarse location" for every app except your maps app (Firefox and OSMAnd+)
- disable "calendar" for every app except your calendar and email app
- disable "read contacts", "modify contacts" and "get contacts" for every app except your "Phone", "Phone Services", "Phone/Messaging Storage", contacts and messenger apps
- disable all "send/receive/view messages" permissions for every app except "Phone", "Phone Services", "Phone/Messaging Storage", QKSMS, contacts, dialler and messenger apps
- disable "body sensors" and "recognise physical activity" for every app except games needing gyroscope, or any compass dependent app like camera or bubble leveling app
- disable "camera" for every app except your camera and messenger apps
- disable "record audio" for every app except camera, recorder, dialler and messenger apps
- disable all "Phone" permissions for apps except your SMS app (like QKSMS) and Contacts, Dialler and call recorder apps
- disable "change WiFi state" for every app except file sharing apps (like TrebleShot)
- disable "display over other apps" for any third party app not from F-Droid
- disable "read storage" and "write storage" for apps except file manager, file sharing app and messenger apps
- enable all permissions for "Phone", "Phone Services" and "Phone/Messaging Storage" system apps, critical for cell radio calling and sending SMS
NOTE: Remember to use AppOpsX everytime you install a new app outside of F-Droid store, which is done not too often by people.
FOR NERDY USERS
- Get App Manager from Izzy's F-Droid repo (here) to inspect app's manifest, trackers, activities, receivers, services and even signatures via Exodus Privacy built-in, all without root
- Get Warden from Izzy's F-Droid repo (here) for checking loggers (rest app is inferior to App Manager)
HOW TO USE NETGUARD By default, all apps will be blacklisted from WiFi and mobile data access.
If not, go to Settings via 3 dot menu Defaults (white/blacklist) Toggle on "Block WiFi", "Block mobile" and "Block roaming"
Whitelist your web browsers, messengers (WhatsApp, Zoom et al), file sharing apps, download managers, "Aurora Store" app and any game if needs internet and give them WiFi and mobile data access.
Also, whitelist "Downloads" and "Download Manager" as these are system apps that allow web browsers and other apps without built-in downloader to download files. Whitelisting this will keep apps and system stable.
WHICH PHONE BRANDS ARE GOOD AND BAD? (FACTS) Now we will need to evaluate what manufacturers are relatively safe, no appeasing, I will be blunt. I will make tier lists to help. I will give explanation for each, so read before jumping with pitchforks.
NOTE: If you have anti-Chinese political allergy, kindly read facts, or choose the other non-Chinese options listed.
Tier 1: Huawei/Honor, Asus, Nokia, Motorola, Sony, LG, FairPhone
Tier 2: Samsung, OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, Realme
Tier NOPE NOT AT ALL: Google
FairPhone: Clean software, ethical, recyclable components, good phone but bit extra price for midrange hardware. Status: good.
Huawei: (still no evidence by US government after one year of market protectionism ban, contrary to what Sinophobic US propaganda and condemned joke research papers (refer to this for why), may make you believe, all countries except US, Australia, Japan and UK are allowing them for 5G participation, there is absolutely ZERO EVIDENCE against specifically Huawei (does not count other Chinese companies), earlier ironically audited by UK GCHQ to be safe and on any of their global devices, to date there has been no telemetry found IFF you do NOT use Huawei ID account or Huawei AppGallery store (as instructed above). I have an OpenKirin rooted unlocked Honor 6X, and now a locked P30 Lite to confirm this.
If Huawei's CEO is a former PLA technician, so do plenty US companies. What does it prove?
NOTE: Real reason for this propaganda ban is USA could not monopolise 5G unlike it did 4G, and so they are playing their cards to put China out of commission. And Huawei did not steal 5G from USA, since USA does not even have a proper 5G vendor yet.
To add, for the rest of world outside China it is better to own a device from a country which has no jurisdiction over them, and you can use their phones without Huawei and Google accounts very safely. BONUS: baseband modem not associated with NSA. Also, good cameras, battery, display and performance in general. Status: good.
Asus, Sony, Motorola: their software is nearly stock, and as such quite beneficial and peace of mind assuring. Status: good.
LG: less stock-y software, still good. Good cameras. display too. Status: good.
Nokia: a bit of skepticism here with them helping spy with nexus with Russia's MTS and recently found Chinese telemetry as well, but nothing that NetGuard cannot stop by blocking domains via HOSTS from interacting with your device. Status: Potential issues, can be mitigated.
Samsung: Multiple issues with Qihoo 360 on phones with IMEI MAC sent over HTTP, Samsung Pay selling user data with no optout till now, Replicant devs discovering backdoors, Knox hardware blackbox with no idea what microcode it runs, certification from NSA even worrying, lockscreen and notification ads in OneUI, ads on Smart TVs, this all accounts to being quite shady company, but Blokada or NetGuard can mitigate it. Status: avoid for other brands if possible.
Xiaomi: They have quite a bit of telemetry in their MIUI skin, similar to Samsung. Now they have tracking in Incognito Mode in their Browser as well. Status: avoid unless you implement my guide properly.
OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo: They have considerably less telemetry and ads, better than Samsung and Xiaomi. But they will start doing the same thing as Realme which I will mention below soon. Status: potential but passable for now.
Realme: They are implementing ads into their UI, which will soon come to Oppo and Vivo phones too, a bit of an issue. This allows for telemetry and tracking concerns. Status: avoid if possible.
Google: In general an evil megacorp, Titan M security chip is self-claimed to be great on Pixels, but there is no way to verify if the microcode it contains is the same as that open sourced by Google. Having faith in Google's promise of their proprietary closed source chip being clean is like having faith in cyanide not killing a person. Moreover, they are known as:
TL;DR there is no summary, privacy is an indepth topic and you must take a couple of hours to go through this simple guide, as long as it looks it should clear all your concerns with smartphone privacy.
- NSA partner and collecting data and spy on users in googolplex capacity
- AI used by US military for drone bombing in foreign countries based on metadata Google collects on smartphones
- use dark patterns in their software to make users accept their TOS to spy
- repeated lies about how their data collection works claiming anonymity
- forcing users to use their Play Services which is spyware and scareware
- monopolising the web and internet via AMP
- use of non standard web browser libraries and known attempts to cripple lone standing ethical competitors like Firefox and Gecko web engine (now with Microsoft making their default Edge Chromium-based too)
This is the best you can do without rooting or modding a phone, and it is working for me since almost a year now, personally tested and verified on my locked P30 Lite.
I have a history of rooting and modding phones, one being an Honor 6X before Huawei disabled unlocking policy, one being a Xiaomi and one being a Lenovo before that. Also, one Samsung Galaxy S2 long time ago.
Credit to w1nst0n for the Universal Android Debloater (authorised me to use his tool). Hope this guide serves as a great tool for any privacy seeker.
submitted by TheAnonymouseJoker
My mom made me unhappy with my Ancestry DNA results
I'm mixed Vietnamese and Chinese. Although both parents hail from Vietnam, only my mom's side of the family are of Chinese descent. My grandpa was the Joe Jackson to my family's Jackson 5: physically and verbally abusive. My mom had fucked up my mental health and views of relationships so badly with her inability to cope with her past trauma and heartache. I may make more rant posts about her toxic parenting in the future.
Growing up in Westminster, CA, I was oblivious as to why I struggled to connect with other Chinese and Vietnamese people, even my own family. For whatever reason, my mom had been obsessed with assimilating me into Chinese culture despite us living in a city where most Asians are Vietnamese. For instance, she would focus heavily on teaching me how to speak Cantonese but not Mandarin, despite teaching me to read and write in Chinese. Even though my grandma watched the Vietnamese channel on TV and listened to the Vietnamese radio station, my mom preferred to binge watching hours of TVB shows on VHS from Honk Kong.
Of course, I went along with it, since everyone on her side of the family generally speak to each other in Cantonese more often than Vietnamese. Also, since my dad was absent from my life, I didn't have anybody on his side to compare with. I didn't see any red flags until I realized I didn't resemble any of the Chinese actresses and Miss Hong Kong contestants. At Chinese restaurants and Chinese owned businesses, I often got weird looks for speaking to them in Cantonese. At Vietnamese restaurants, all I could do was point at the number next to the English translation of the menu item. When I wasn't proficient enough to read in English, I was playing Russian roulette with whomever I was eating out with, and therefore, subjected to whichever they ordered. It couldn't win either way.
I noticed that I was always left out of conversations with my family and their guests spoke Vietnamese, unless they spoke Cantonese or English. Even broken English was better than being ignored. As an only child, any kid that came over was better than having no one to play with. When I brought it up to her, she acted like I was too young (i.e. too silly and naive) to understand what I was saying to her. Any future attempts to teach me Vietnamese and about the Vietnamese culture surrounding me 24/7 were half-assed and, later on, completely forgotten about.
By the time I entered middle school, my grandma revealed my mom's secret about me and my dad. It turned out that my dad is fully, Vietnamese, which made me half and half, or so I thought at the time. The good news: he was alive and well. The last time my grandma had seen him, he had asked about me and wanted to be a part of my life again. The bad news was their relationship ended so badly, my mom threatened to call the police any time he got near me before I turned 18. Even more bad news: he only spoke in Vietnamese, and doesn't know enough English to be considered bilingual.
While I was happy to have an answer about my dad, it raised more questions. Again, why did my mom neglect to teach me about Vietnamese culture? Also, why did she not want me to understand and connect with my own dad, let alone every Vietnamese speaker we know, including our family? When will I ever meet him?
From then on, my adolescence was plagued with abandonment issues, depression, an identity crisis, self esteem issues, and distrust of any Asian parental figure, whether they were family or strangers. It happened around the same time Saturday morning cartoons stopped being a thing. So many tears were shed wherever I could find a time and place to be alone. At one point, I had contemplated suicide. By age 16, I had developed an inferiority complex about not living up to Asian stereotypes about excelling in almost every subject. Sometimes, I would wonder if I was mixed with other ethnicities with conflicting stereotypes to justify my flaws and introverted quirks. It didn't help that I had grown distant from my friends I went to middle school with. My grades suffered from the lack of motivation and positive reinforcement, despite staying above a 2.0-2.5 GPA. My self esteem also took a dive when my mom cut off all my hair like she used to do before one last time. I grew even more distant from past friends and potential acquaintances when my mom started moving from different houses to rent rooms from. I grew just as distant from the only relatives that I was close to: my grandma, my aunt, and my favorite uncle (youngest out of my three uncles) as we were all going our separate ways to our own respective homes. My favorite uncle did everything he could to be as supportive of me as a father figure, including empathize with me about my struggles without my dad and accepting my crappy Father's Day gifts from elementary school.
It was difficult enough to adjust from sharing a house with my grandma and uncles, close by to my aunt's bakery in Little Saigon and my cousins, to a tiny room rented at someone's house with just my mom. Eventually, we settled on a tiny apartment in Anaheim. What made the transition more miserable was the fact that my mom always has been, and still is, too mentally fucked up from her own past trauma and hardships to provide the parental support I desperately needed. I was never allowed to go out on my own before school started, so I never got to make friends with any of our new neighbors during the summer.
Once school had started, I threw myself into starting over again. After the initial awkwardness as the new kid, I ended up making new friends, including one who actually lived right across from me in the same apartment complex. Since the majority of students were mostly non-Asians, I felt no pressure from stereotypical expectations to do better in school. I slowly became more confident enough to join a few clubs and improve my grades as my hair grew long again. My mom and I also made weekly trips to visit my grandma on weekends. Sometimes, we would stay home (or my mom would leave for my grandma's without me) whenever I had any extracurricular activities.
In December of 2008, my grandma and my aunt had surprised me with an early Christmas gift at her bakery: my dad. Thanks to my mom, I had some mixed feelings about the mysterious man who introduced himself as my father. Knowing about the language barrier between us and my trust issues, I was too scared to say anything to him. Afraid of crying in front of him, and being abandoned again, I quickly ran into the restroom next to the office, and locked myself in to cry by myself. Eventually, I came to accept he was my dad, and attempted to get to know him. He took me out to lunch and gave me a nice Sony Vaio laptop, which helped me with my school work later on. However, those few arranged times I met him didn't make up for the lack of fatherly love in my childhood. Whatever the hell my mom did to discourage me from embracing my Vietnamese side worked, because I still couldn't connect with my dad and his side of the family.
By senior year of school, my dad had abandoned me again. I started back at square one with my depression, insecurities, interiority complex, and family abandonment issues affecting my grades. To make matters worse, I had started a toxic long distance relationship with someone I had met online out of desperation from my first ex-boyfriend had broken up with me. The stress ultimately made me retake one of my classes after high school and earning my diploma a year later.
Every mistake since flunking high school and graduating a year later triggered my inferiority complex and anxiety about dishonoring my family. Every struggle during culinary school and after graduation escalated into a crying session about my worth as a defective Asian. Every attempt to try a new hobby or skill, even during this pandemic, reminds me of my mom's wavering faith in me. After moving out to Orange, CA, on my own, every craving for Vietnamese and traditional Chinese food make me yearn to reconnect with my family again. Nearly all my accomplishments were quickly invalidated by my mom, because I wasn't working whichever job or field she had tried to force onto me to provide the lavish lifestyle and freeloading privilege that she wanted of me.
Thankfully, I was fortunate to find more supportive and loving people to be surrounded by and talk to: my friends from college, former co-workers, my in-laws, and especially my husband. I learned to be my own individual without and regained my confidence over time. I graduated with an associate's degree, gained work experience as a baker and cake decorator, got married, have my own car and driver's license, and moved in with some of my friends and their two cats.
I became more adventurous as I was recovering from my past, so I satisfied my curiosity with an Ancestry DNA test kit in 2016. I sent my saliva sample as soon as the kit arrived in the mail, and played the waiting game. The first of my results were fairly broad regions across Asia, specifically Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. I got more excited as I kept receiving more updates about my genealogy, narrowing down which ethnicities I was. Another update on August 2019 showed I was 92 percent Vietnamese and 8 percent Dai. At that point, it was too late. The damage had already been done, and I lost all hope to reconnect with my family after all these years.
The latest result from July 2020 reported 96 percent Vietnamese and 4 percent Chinese.
Being a multicultural Asian American was already hard enough. I felt so disappointed at my DNA results. I always knew I was never Chinese enough to fit in with other Chinese people to begin with. I was hoping to be at least half and half, I would even settle for 3/4 Vietnamese. All the negative feelings about my cultural identity since high school came rushing back to me.
With my bottled up emotions erupting unexpectedly during stressful times, especially after making mistakes, I started seeing a therapist months before the pandemic started. My first two therapists were able to empathize about the lack of support and being an outcast from my family, but as non-Asians, they could only generalize the concept of discrimination within the Asian community. I talked more about my work life with them than my family life.
Once I met my third therapist, who was Vietnamese American, I spilled everything about how unhealthy my mom's parenting really was, how it warped my views on family relationships and my self worth. Based on what I told her about my mom's behavior and parenting, it turned out that she was projecting her own feelings about her abuse and everything else from Vietnamese people in her life onto me. She must be subconsciously associating Chinese culture as good and Vietnamese culture as evil. It definitely explained her reluctance to have a Vietnamese translator during parent-teacher conferences without my uncle accompanying her. It might also explain why she was so unwilling to let my dad into my life, besides not being compatible to one another.
Being a first generation Asian American is already hard enough with the high standards, abuse, tiger parenting, and hypocrisy. There's already so much I don't forgive my mom for. In this case, I don't know if I can ever forgive her for basically teaching me to hate being Vietnamese, denying me a more well rounded family life during my childhood, and being too self-centered to provide the parental love and support I deserved.
EDIT: After reading all your comments, I just wanted to thank you all for the support, words of encouragement, and virtual hugs. I know I shouldn't have let the racism from other judgemental Asian Parents get to me as much as it did. After graduating from college and moving out on my own, I don't feel the need to seek approval from my mom anymore. I'm not completely healed yet, but I'm at least much happier since I started seeing my therapist. I wouldn't have been able to be at peace as an individual without surrounding myself with more supportive people these last few years. I'm going to keep being my own person, see my therapist again, and try to explore my dual origins.
submitted by Shintyqle27